The Exploration and Preliminary Colonization of the Seno Mexicano under don José de Escandón (1747-1749): An Analysis Based on Primary Spanish Manuscripts
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In 1747, José de Escandón led an expeditionary force into the Seno Mexicano, the remote northern frontier of New Spain, which had developed into a safe haven for rebellious natives who had fled to the region as they resisted Spanish domination in the interior provinces. News of foreign encroachment into the region prompted officials in New Spain to renew their efforts to explore and pacify the region. Within three and onehalf months, the area that had resisted previous attempts at exploration had been thoroughly explored and mapped. In December, 1748, Escandón set out to colonize the newly explored region, named Nuevo Santander. During the preliminary colonization of Nuevo Santander from 1748 to 1749, Escandón founded fourteen settlements along the Río Grande. In this study, I transcribe, translate, and study all primary Spanish manuscripts documenting the exploration of the Seno Mexicano, and the preliminary colonization of the newly founded province of Nuevo Santander. I provide the first English annotated translation of Escandón’s Informe documenting the exploration of the Seno Mexicano, and the first English-language account of the preliminary colonization of Nuevo Santander that is based on all available manuscripts documenting the event: Escandón’s Autos and Friar Simón del Hierro’s Diario. Escandón accomplished what no Spaniard before him could. He successfully explored the Seno Mexicano, and began colonizing the newly founded province of Nuevo Santander. Under Escandón’s colonization design, for the first and only time in the history of New Spain, Spanish officials relied on colonists rather than soldiers and priests to colonize a region. This colonization design had a definitive impact on the future development of the region, and provided the framework under which a civilian ranching industry would emerge and flourish. Escandón was one of the most important people in 18th century New Spain, and the impact of his accomplishments and unique colonization plan is still evident today on both sides of the Río Grande.
Cunningham, Debbie S. (2010). The Exploration and Preliminary Colonization of the Seno Mexicano under don José de Escandón (1747-1749): An Analysis Based on Primary Spanish Manuscripts. Doctoral dissertation, Texas A&M University. Available electronically from